Symbiosis Gathering

Participants from last year’s Symbiosis Gathering work at a dish washing station to prevent waste from disposable materials.

Participants from last year’s Symbiosis Gathering work at a dish washing station to prevent waste from disposable materials.

For a full list of events, workshops and performances, visit

The word “symbiosis” has roots in ancient Greek—“sym” means “with,” and “biosis” means “living.” It’s a pretty straightforward word that refers to the interaction between unique biological species, and it’s a fitting metaphor for the phenomenon of many people coming together to celebrate the Earth and its artistry.

Such a phenomenon will occur on May 17-21, when hundreds of people will spend five days under the sun and moon near Pyramid Lake to listen to music, watch the solar eclipse, and immerse themselves in the environment.

According to spokesperson Paul West, this type of festival attracts two different crowds.

“Eco-festivals emerged around electronic music scene and the green scene,” says spokesperson Paul West. “A lot of folks come out for the eco, and others come out for the techno. Some of them will get exposed to environmentalism for the first time.”

West says the Symbiosis Gathering is unlike other similar festivals because it follows an international approach to festivals, which means that it changes location each year.

“These kinds of festivals tend to move around from one beautiful place to another beautiful place,” he says. “They go wherever there are extraordinary events, like the eclipse.”

This year’s gathering is a zero waste, no plastic event and will have a multitude of environmental activities and stations, such as renewable energy power stations and dishwashing areas for attendees to use in place of disposable plates, cups and utensils. One tree will be planted for each ticket sold.

“An area for green awareness is not having trash receptacles—focusing on recyclable, reusable, biodegradable instead,” says Symbiosis Events spokesperson Karen KoChen, who heads many of the environmental projects. “There will be recycling stations for patrons. We are procuring our products from a variety of criteria. Everything is reusable or by a material that is easily biodegradable. Vendors, too, have to comply with these rules.”

KoChen says that these efforts are successful because attendees are dedicated to decreasing waste.

“We’re going on an initiative for no plastic, like no plastic bags for ice, no water bottles,” says KoChen. “People will have to learn to work under a different mindset, like the convenience of using plastic and figuring out how to live without it.”

This goes for the food, too. “All the food has to be local, organic and fresh,” says West. “Everything we’re bringing in is organic.”

Besides an extensive lineup of bands and performers, workshops will also be held, led by environmental activists such as Chris Paine, director of Who Killed the Electric Car? and Revenge of the Electric Car.

The festival applied for a Greener Festival Award (GFA), which evaluates sustainable efforts and habits of large festivals. Judges will be on site during the gathering. In 2011, only a few U.S. based festivals were given GFA honors.

KoChen notes that the festival is largely about community, and the festival is made possible by the Paiute tribe allowing the use of the land around Pyramid Lake. In return, volunteers are collaborating with the tribe to set up compost bins on the reservation.

“We’re building the bridge of this ecological concept as well as a community model,” she says. “We’ve always tried to figure out ways to bring this mindset to the forefront of this experience so when people come to this event, they are transported to a different kind of reality.”